Photo by Amy Irvin/38 Photography
This is the first installment of a new series we will be publishing each Sunday! Certain players, lines, coaches, and any entity associated with the team will be given a letter grade based on their performance during the preceding week. A brief explanation will be given for each grade. All of these are 100% serious and there will never be jokes published on Pattison Avenue. Thank you.
Matt Read: A-
Matt Read probably stood out more than any other Flyers skater this past week. Read was one of the brighter spots in a week that was mostly filled with exactly the opposite. I think it’s fairly safe to say that his injury problems from last season are behind him, and that’s great news for Philadelphia. Read looked strong on the penalty kill as well, which could prove to be valuable with two key penalty killers still out of the lineup. Dave Hakstol rewarded Read by the end of the week with some time up on Claude Giroux’s wing on the top line.
Sam Gagner: B-
During a trio of games that featured mostly stagnant offense, Gagner was at the very least able to put together some decent shifts with extended offensive zone attack time. If there was any doubt that Gagner belongs in the Flyers lineup with everybody healthy, that doubt should be gone by now. A team like Philadelphia that has struggled to score goals needs an offensively adept guy like Gagner out there every night.
Dave Hakstol: 3.25
Dave Hakstol, a college coach, receives a college GPA style grade of 3.25. This week saw Hakstol making some real adjustments for the first time. We saw him bench Radko Gudas on Thursday night after a Tuesday game that saw him make several noticeable mistakes. We saw him move Nick Schultz down from the top defensive pairing, a move that will hopefully help Mark Streit utilize his offensive talents a little more. Friday night we saw him make his biggest adjustment yet, separating Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. It didn’t work very will on Friday, but his heart is definitely in the right place there. I like what I’ve seen from Dave Hakstol early on.
Sean Couturier: INC
Sean Couturier missed all three games this week after colliding with a flagrant pile of trash last week in New England. While Couturier’s injury does not seem like an extremely long term one, he was sorely missed this week. The penalty kill looked out of sorts all week, conceding four goals in three games. I’ve always been a huge advocate of playing Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek on separate lines, but that type of balanced lineup works much better with Couturier healthy. Couturier’s value to this team has really been driven home during this week’s games. Let’s hope he is back on the ice soon.
Nick Schultz: W
Nick Schultz receives a grade of ‘W’ for the week, meaning ‘W’hy is he still in the lineup and also ‘W’hy is he a Flyer for another year after this one. The only real positive in regards to Schultz this week is that he was taken off the top pairing in favor of Michael Del Zotto. His penalty killing was below average at best, and it’s very clear that he isn’t capable of handling the difficult minutes that he has been given thus far. This isn’t anything new either… it really started last year the minute he was separated from Braydon Coburn.
Flyers Playing Down To Competition Narrative: Still an F
The idea that the Flyers play down to bad competition was extremely prominent in mainstream writing last season. So it doesn’t come as a surprise that after 3 consecutive losses to teams that missed the playoffs last season, that idea has resurfaced already. It’s still isn’t correct.
To start, it’s wrong to assume that the Flyers are definitively better than either the Devils or the Sabres. You can’t ignore that the Sabres added a 1st and 2nd line center to their team from last season. That can have a huge impact. They’re ahead of the Flyers in both raw and close possession statistics so far this season. The same can be said for New Jersey, who many thought underperformed last season when they finished 6 points behind the Flyers.
The Flyers are a mediocre team that was missing their second line center and one of their top penalty killers. They are far from the worst team in the league, but they aren’t good enough to play down to anybody, especially in the absence of one of their most important players. When they lose to other mediocre teams, it isn’t because of their effort level. It’s probably just because they aren’t that good.